Prof. Haferd wins first place in Africatown International Design Idea Competition

Professor Jerome Haferd and his architectural firm JEROME HAFERD / BRANDT : HAFERD won first place in the Africatown International Design Idea Competition for site number two at the former Josephine Allen public housing area in Mobile, Alabama with his proposal “In the Wake.” The Design Idea Competition is a way to create a vision for The Africatown Cultural Mile, 16 venues of cultural heritage to form a destination system, in the greater Mobile region.

Africatown is the only 19th-century settlement created by a group of Africans who were among the 110 souls pirated to Mobile, Alabama, from Dahomey (present-day Benin) as human cargo aboard Clotilda, the last known ship that sailed to Africa in 1860 during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Africatown became well-known with the May 2019 discovery of the sunken Clotilda which landed on the shores of the Mobile River Delta, illegally bringing the captive West Africans into the country. In 1865, after a short enslavement, and unable to return home, 32 of the Africans formed and governed their own community. Though their descendants exist today, the site of Africatown suffered from generations of neglect and industrial encroachment.

The Design Idea Competition leveraged the find of the Clotilda to give multi-disciplinary design teams an opportunity to imagine a revived Africatown, with 16 land and water-edged venues on 4 sites across 3 cities that interpret and honor its history. A network of well-designed cultural amenities—welcome center and museums, “Clotilda” boathouse, performing arts venues, signature spa hotel, water taxis, boutique retail, restaurants, and community amenities like housing, school building redevelopment, and green spaces, connected by Africatown’s unique history. For a list of the three other winners:

Haferd’s proposal, “In The Wake,” synthesized months of research into a conceptual urban design outline for the entire site, as well as design proposals for the Africatown Museum, Clotilda Boathouse and archive, 300 units of “maritime housing”, and a Gateway of Baptism plaza. “In The Wake” embraces the multi-layered in-between of water and land and taps into the inter-woven histories of Native and African stewardship of the site, while celebrating solid (earth) and flowing (woven) design elements that encourage the remediation and co-existence with the natural floodplain ecology.

The design concept invokes the “doubleness” of Cudjo Lewis and the Africatown descendants’ identity in both ancestral and futuristic ways through a doubling of ground and building envelope surfaces, literal layers that define a new relationship to earth and water. The project proposes this imaginary for our relationship to the ground, sky, and social plane of Africatown, one that is layered, billowing, and porous.

The following CCNY alumni and students worked on the project: Sidnie Ancion (M Arch, 2022); Violet Greenberg (B Arch, 2022); Gabriel Moyer-Perez (B Arch, current student); Tiffany Gonzalez (B Arch, 2022); Shadeen Dixon (M Arch, 3rd year); and Suraya Babb (M Arch, 3rd year).

Designs were encouraged to incorporate the latest digital technologies, imbued with “Wakanda Forever” Afrofuturistic sensibilities, as well as LEED® architectural standards and ways to produce sustainable green energy solutions.